The scribes were students in the law, and expositors of it to the people, men in reputation for wisdom and honour, but the generality of them were enemies to Christ and his gospel. Now here we have some of them attending him, and four things we have in these verses concerning them, which we had before:—
I. We have them here commending the reply which Christ made to the Sadducees concerning the resurrection: Certain of the scribes said, Master, thou hast well said, Luke 20:39. Christ had the testimony of his adversaries that he said well; and therefore the scribes were his enemies because he would not conform to the traditions of the elders, but yet when he vindicated the fundamental practices of religion, and appeared in the defence of them, even the scribes commended his performance, and owned that he said well. Many that call themselves Christians come short even of this spirit.
II. We have them here struck with an awe of Christ, and of his wisdom and authority (Luke 20:40): They durst not ask him any questions at all, because they say that he was too hard for all that contended with him. His own disciples, though weak, yet, being willing to receive his doctrine, durst ask him any question; but the Sadducees, who contradicted and cavilled at his doctrine, durst ask him none.
III. We have them here puzzled and run aground with a question concerning the Messiah, Luke 20:41. It was plain by many scriptures that Christ was to be the Son of David; even the blind man knew this (Luke 18:39); and yet it was plain that David called the Messiah his Lord (Luke 20:42, 44), his owner, and ruler, and benefactor: The Lord said to my Lord. God said it to the Messiah, Ps. 110:1. Now if he be his Son, why doth he call him his Lord? If he be his Lord, why do we call him his Son? This he left them to consider of, but they could not reconcile this seeming contradiction; thanks be to God, we can; that Christ, as God, was David’s Lord, but Christ, as man, was David’s Son. He was both the root and the offspring of David, Rev. 22:16. By his human nature he was the offspring of David, a branch of his family; by his divine nature he was the root of David, from whom he had his being and life, and all the supplies of grace.
IV. We have them here described in their black characters, and a public caution given to the disciples to take heed of them, Luke 20:45-47. This we had, just as it is here, Mark 12:38; and more largely Matt. 23:1-39. Christ bids his disciples beware of the scribes, that is,
1. “Take heed of being drawn into sin by them, of learning their way, and going into their measures; beware of such a spirit as they are governed by. Be not you such in the Christian church as they are in the Jewish church.”
2. “Take heed of being brought into trouble by them,” in the same sense that he had said (Matt. 10:17), “Beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the councils; beware of the scribes, for they will do so. Beware of them, for,” (1.) “They are proud and haughty. They desire to walk about the streets in long robes, as those that are above business (for men of business went with their loins girt up), and as those that take state, and take place.” Cedant arma togae—Let arms yield to the gown. They loved in their hearts to have people make their obeisance to them in the markets, that many might see what respect was paid them; and were very proud of the precedency that was given them in all places of concourse. They loved the highest seats in the synagogues and the chief rooms at feasts, and, when they were placed in them, looked upon themselves with great conceit and upon all about them with great contempt. I sit as a queen. (2.) “They are covetous and oppressive, and make their religion a cloak and cover for crime.” They devour widows’ houses, get their estates into their hands, and then by some trick or other make them their own, or they live upon them, and eat up what they have; and widows are an easy prey to them, because they are apt to be deluded by their specious pretences: for a show they make long prayers, perhaps long prayers with the widows when they are in sorrow, as if they had not only a piteous but a pious concern for them, and thus endeavour to ingratiate themselves with them, and get their money and effects into their hands. Such devout men may surely be trusted with untold gold; but they will give such an account of it as they think fit.
Christ reads them their doom in a few words: These shall receive a more abundant judgment, a double damnation, both for their abuse of the poor widows, whose houses they devoured, and for their abuse of religion, and particularly of prayer, which they had made use of as a pretence for the more plausible and effectual carrying on of their worldly and wicked projects; for dissembled piety is double iniquity.